Christian Bale has more control over his body than any other actor in Hollywood—and that's saying something. He loses and gains more weight for roles than seems humanly possible (or healthy). In 2000's American Psycho, he was pure muscle; then in The Machinist (2004), he withered away to nearly nothing, grotesquely skin-and-bones. In Batman Begins (2005), Bale was a physical specimen while in Rescue Dawn, he appears gaunt and dramatically underfed once again. Bale's commitment to the acting craft goes well beyond typical role research. He transforms himself, body and mind, into the characters he portrays. It is this devotion that makes Bale an unparalleled leading man.
In Rescue Dawn, Bale plays real-life Vietnam-era pilot Dieter Dengler, shot down on a mission over Laos. Captured and held in a POW camp with a pair of other Americans (Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies), Dengler somehow never loses his sense of humor and immediately plots how to escape his jungle prison.
Ridiculously hands-on German director Werner Herzog (The Wild Blue Yonder) is shown in the DVD special features jumping into snake-infested waters to get quality, ultra-realistic shots, and his cast found working with him a unique and rewarding experience. Zahn (That Thing You Do) delivers far more depth than his prior comedic performances while Bale is spot-on as always.
This isn't as dark or disturbing a film as you might expect from a Vietnam POW piece, but it's a vibrant retelling from a powerful storyteller.